Digital technologies can help the UK achieve its target of net-zero emissions by 2050 and become a leader in green technology
“While techno-fixes to the carbon crisis are no silver bullet we know that digital technology can play a vital supporting role in the complex systems transformations that achieving net zero requires,” according to Julien David, CEO of techUK.
David’s comments are part of a new report – How to make the UK a digital clean tech leader – offered by techUK and Deloitte at the start of London Tech Week.
In the introduction to the report, David notes that the need to address the world’s carbon emissions and energy consumption has become urgent.
Analysis carried out by Deloitte suggests that digital technology already in the field could be used to reduce 7.3 million tonnes of UK carbon emission by 2030 – 15% of what’s needed. At the same, technology can unlock added benefits of £13.7bn by enabling other sectors to be flexible, automated, and efficient.
On its own, the impact of technology on climate change depends on how it’s developed and deployed.
“In particular, it has the potential to be an essential tool in addressing the climate crisis, which will be the defining influence of our society’s wellbeing in the coming decade. That’s why [techUK] are committed to encouraging the deployment of digital technology for good,” the report reads.
“Clean technology is already making a positive contribution to economic growth and to reducing emissions – and this contribution is projected to grow,” said Nick Owen, UK Chair at Deloitte. “There is still much more to do, however, and we are committed to working with our clients to deploy clean technology as an essential tool in addressing the climate crisis head on.”
2020 is the first year Tech Nation – the UK network for ambitious entrepreneurs – has identified clean tech as an emerging tech sector, with digital devices and software increasingly being deployed to help optimise existing assets and systems, support energy efficiency, and bolster the discovery of new solutions to climate challenges.
Speaking at the virtual launch of the report on Sept. 7, Nick Seeber, partner at Deloitte, reinforced the importance of this emerging sector, explaining how the UK tech industry can help drive environmental change.
“The opportunity in tech is unique,” Seeber said. “The platform [that] tech companies provide means that there’s an opportunity not just to decarbonize their own operations, but also to be an enabler for the decarbonisation of the wider system – and that’s something which is … very special in our sector.
“Secondly, clean technology in the UK is a win-win. It’s both environmentally beneficial and also economically advantageous. There really is no reason not to see clean tech in the UK as a priority,” Seeber said.
techUK in its report urges the government to support this growing sector and offers a number of recommendations that include: putting a focus on “data for decarbonisation”; pivoting innovation to net zero to test new technologies’ underlying value propositions and viability; begin “crowd-sourcing” of innovative tech solutions to policy challenges; and seek out evidence on market incentives for net zero to strengthen the investment case and unlock private investment in decarbonisation.
The report also suggests the creation of a new Net Zero Tech Taskforce to remove regulatory barriers and outdated standards that are holding the UK back from deploying clean technologies in energy and business.
“We have just three decades left to reach net-zero and are on the cusp of embarking on massive system changes across our economy. We can harness digital to help us to reach that more efficiently,” said Susanne Baker, techUK’s associate director for climate, environment and sustainability.
For Owens, how organisations, governments, policymakers and regulators respond is critical to bringing about change and meeting the 2050 goal.
“I would say when it comes to business strategy, we’re not quite there yet. But I think we’re getting to the point where people do understand that sustainability and climate aren’t things you think of next to your business strategy but are embedded fully in it,” he said at the online launch.
He highlights the fact that 10 years ago, when digital strategies were starting to emerge, business leaders regularly viewed digitisation as separate to their overall business strategy.
“Now, we wouldn’t dream of talking about business without thinking of everything being digital, and every digital aspect of that organisational strategy being considered. I think the same will soon be true with climate and how business leaders approach to it.”
Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.